Intending a brief in defense of ""the maligned and anonymous craft of screenwriting,"" Froug instead reveals the artifice that passes for the art in this collection of interviews with 12 important practitioners. At issue is the ""auteur theory"" which argues that ""the film is ultimately the 'personal statement' of the director."" Froug goes to the screenwriter -- ""beaten, battered and belittled, the nigger of the industry"" -- for refutation: ""even in films, in the beginning is the word, there is no film without a film script."" But Froug seems closer to the truth when he asks if the screenwriter ""has been sold the inferior race myth so effectively he can no longer believe that to write is beautiful."" Hollywood gossip and shoptalk pervade most of the interviews but Froug cuts through the inessential, finding a common mood: each writer ""seems to bring to his work a sense of inferiority,"" an attitude that reduces every question to the financial gain involved. From young writer John Axelrod, counter-culture hero and radical who trades his convictions for a trip to San Tropez, to old-timer Bill Bowers, studio clown and quick rewrite artist, the highest contract is the highest reward. The exceptions -- blacklisted Ring Lardner Jr., Lewis John Carlino and Sterling Silliphant -- are bitter and too confused or tired to offer a clear alternative. What results is an insider's guide to the gimmicks, grumbles, and gambles of ""the industry.